Visiting Lecturer Series: Rich Talarico

famiLIES, ColdTowne’s latest mainstage production was Originally improvised by LA based improv troupe Dasariski whichtakes it’s name from the three memebrs:  Bob DASsie, Rich TalARIco and Craig CackowSKI. ColdTowne presents this new comedic staged play about three brothers and the lives they try to keep hidden from each other and the lies we tell ourselves when we do. It runs Saturdays in June at 830 pm

Rich Talarico will be coming to ColdTowne the last week of it’s run to check out the performance and teach a workshop. Rich will lead a 3 hour workshop/seminar that discusses writing and creating techniques from improv-based Second City and comedic play famiLIES, to late night shows like Key & Peele, MADtv, SNL and The Tonight Show to high concept shows like Review and The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show . 

He was kind of enough to answer a few of our questions about his career and his writing process and his heroes

What are you memories of originally putting together’Dead Uncle Ted” and ‘Loose Fish’?

Dead Uncle Ted and Loose fish were two scripted shows that actually combined stories from many different improvised shows that Dasariski had done in the last 10-15 years. 

Dasariski started transcribing our shows and eventually we found stories that worked together and Loose Fish combines a few shows and DUT combines some shows. We asked our friend/ director Alex Fendrich to direct us in these new scripted shows which we did at iO West. 

The original improv shows (think there were 5 or 6 that were used to come up with scripts for Loose Fish and a few others that made up DUT. 

In the shows in question, we obviously picked material that resonated with us in some way. We seemed to get a lot of mileage out of characters who were deeply opinionated, passionate and generally screwed.  Most of the characters we play in our improv are fools who dare to dream. 

After playing with Bob and Craig for 20+ years, what are you favorite parts of what they bring to your shows?

When we’re “on” there’s nothing like it. At its best working with Craig and Bob becomes like an exercise in telepathy or mind reading. There have been moments when Craig or Bob were going to move a chair on stage (and I KNEW “oh, he’s making the principal’s office we just heard about) and it immediately tells me where we are going. I have enjoyed playing with lots of great players over the years, but something with Craig and Bob and me really brings us to a place I haven’t found with many other players except Jean Villepique, Stephnie Weir, McBrayer, Jagodowski, Dorff, Sagher… etc.  Craig was my first improv coach and asked me to join his team MR BLONDE which later added an unknown Tina Fey. Bob was with Steph on a rival house team but we always enjoyed playing together. We always laughed at the same kinds of things. 

Bob put together a show called TRIO (the first late night SUnday show at io Chicago) and it was me, Steph Weir and Bob and the show (in 1998) was meant to mirror and explore the way a jazz trio would; holding it down and letting the other guy solo, etc. 

When we still had some slots avail and Steph and Bob had briefly broken up(!) we asked Craig to join us in her place. And, Craig agreed saying only if we called the show DASARISKI would he do it. We thought it was a terrible name and didn’t think it would be our name for 17+ years. 

When you create scripted work through improvisation like this or in Second City revue processes do you think that you improvise differently, knowing you’re looking for content as opposed to shows where you are not?

SC is totally different animal. You KNOW you are trying to get scripted stuff. With the shows LOOSE FISH and DUT we never improvised any of these shows thinking we were creating material. However that’s all we did at Second City. Craig and I were in the Mainstage cast at SC for a couple shows together. 

But, with this stuff we weren’t worried about scripting. We recorded our shows because we wanted to learn. We transcribed the shows to see what was working and what wasn’t. It wasn’t until later when we had a wealth of stuff that we thought, could this stuff be used in another way. 

Our first effort was a short film we made called Jakarta Boom Boom (it is a 12 min film taken from a 45 min improv) we just squeezed it down. Premise is Craig and I are two american businessmen who are secretly gay who are trying to get bob (another higher up businessman from America) in a 3 way. We are all trapped in a hotel room in Jakarta. It’s on you tube and worth checking out. Directed by the great Chicago director Leroy Koetz. 

What’s your favorite sketch ever?

Jordan Peele wrote so many at Key & Peele that I loved. Steph Weir is an amazing writer and most of her SC stuff still astounds me.   

Gah! What a question— okay if I had to pick I’d say the best most reliable sketch I have ever seen (and performed in SC tourco) is Pictionary originally written and performed by Steve Carrel, Paul Dinello, Ruth Rudnick and Fran Adams from SC. It’s always a killer and involves two couples playing men vs. women at Pictionary. The ladies kill and the men devolve into arguing. That’s a desert island sketch and it always works. 

Who are your writing idols?

Technically things opened up for me a lot after reading STORY by Robert McKee— But, Joseph Campbell changed my life, so did Christopher Hitchens. 

Who are your improv idols?

So lucky to play with my idols, eh? Bob, Craig, Steph Weir, Rachel Dratch, Kevin Dorff, TJ Jagodowski, Tami Sagher, Jack McBrayer– are the people I came up with who I seem to have the best scenes with. They also always do things in scenes that build on what we are doing and also delight or surprise. 

Rich Talarico is an Emmy nominated and Peabody Award winning writer and producer best known for his work on Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele.“ Additionally, Rich has written/produced “Review” on Comedy Central, FOX’s “Mad TV,” NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show w. Jay Leno”,  and the 2-hour TV Special “Must See TV: A Tribute to James Burrows.” Rich also produced and wrote “Frank TV“ for TBS, “The Sketch Pad” for HBO and co-produced The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show for Comedy Central. Back in the 1900s  Rich took his first improv class from Stephen Colbert at Chicago’s Second City Theater in 1992; went on to tour with Second City’s National Touring Company and later co-created five original sketch comedy revues with SC’s etc., and Main Stage Companies. While in Chicago, Rich was also involved at Improv Olympic (Now iO) under the direction of Charna Halpern and the late, Del Close. Rich played on the Improv Olympic house teams “Mr. Blonde” and “Faulty Wiring” – co-created the long-form improv shows “Strap Heads”, “Trio”, “Close Quarters” and “Dasariski“ and played with the early casts of the long running “Armando Diaz Experience, Theatrical Movement and Hootenanny.” Rich has appeared in a few TV commercials, most notably A&W Rootbeer’s “Mr. Dumass”. Rich also appeared in small roles on “Review”, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien”, “Early Edition”, “What About Joan?” and the feature film “High Fidelity”. More at richtalarico.com